Here she is, Miss Amer — oops, that's the wrong pageant. Here she is, Miss USA, the winner of Donald Trump's annual beauty pageant and feeder to the coveted Miss Universe pageant. It's the representative from Rhode Island, Olivia Culpo! She took the crown thanks to her beauty, poise, a firey purpleish dress, and a wonderful answer to a question posed by you, the fans. At this time, I do not believe that Donald Trump has asked to see her long form birth certificate.
For the first year ever one of the big questions at the end of the night was sent via Twitter, and the question was whether or not the contestant thought it was fair if a transgender woman won Miss USA over a natural born woman. Olivia had a graceful answer about thinking that it was fair because, basically, this is a free country and everyone deserves a shot. Thanks for not giving us a flashback to that whole Carrie Prejean brouhaha from 2009. While the winner was deserving, lets look at a few of the things from the show that were a little bit over the top.
The Names: While each of the ladies was absolutely stunning, some of them had some rather non-traditional names. Along with a slew of Ashleys, Jessicas, and Jamies, there was also Jaci, Kendyl, Nana, Rani, Ryanne (pronounced "Ryan"), Jazz, and (wait for it) Myverick. No, she was not from the great state of Alaska.
Product Placement: At times the telecast seemed less like a beauty pageant and more like a segment on QVC, but with even more fake jewels. During the two hours we were treated to mentions of the following products: Wal-Mart, Rain Cosmetics, Chinese Laundry, Kooney Austraila, Australian Gold, the Trump International Hotel, Australian Gold, Diamond Nexus, New York Film Academy, Farouk Systems makers of Chi and Bio Silk, and a host of places in Las Vegas including Carlos and Charles, Qua Spa, Bobby Flay's Chop House at Ceasar's Palace, KGP Kerry's Burgers, Buca di Beppo, Sugar Factory an American Barserie, Mandalay Bay, the Garden of the Gods at Caesar's Palace, the Venetion, and of course we all know it was telecast live from Planet Hollywood! There were more sponsors than at an AA convention. Damn, how much money did this put in Donald Trump's pockets.
Nepotism: The hosts of the show were Bravo's Andy Cohen and E!'s Giuliana Rancic. Giuliana had some company from her show Fashion Police with Kelly Osbourne doing interviews and George Kotsiapolous serving as a judge. The other judges were Arsenio Hall (winner of Trump's Celebrity Apprentice), Rob Kardashian (whose show is on E!), Ali Fedotowsky (who hosts 1st Look on NBC), Cat Cora (a judge on Bravo's Around the World in 80 Plates), Dayana Mendoza (current Miss Universe), and Marilu Henner (an Apprentice contestant). Oh, and did we mention that both E! and Bravo are owned by NBC? The judge who didn't have an obvious link to NBC Universal or Donald Trump is Joe Jonas, and he's so fine we don't question his presence anywhere. Oh, and don't forget that Giuliana is married to the first winner of The Apprentice. The favoritism runs deep. So deep Arsenio Hall even asked a question name checking Andy Cohen's show Watch What Happens Live.
Fun Facts: While each of the contestants who made the cut in the top 16 was called we learned some fun facts about them, and they were all totally crazy. "She works the lunch shift," "she can drive a truck in high heels," "she graduated from college in only four and a half years," "she has three NBA players in her family," "she has a pet goat," "she kissed a stingray for good luck." Wow, are these even real.
Miss Ohio: OK, I was totally rooting for Miss Ohio, because she was for sure the most outrageous contestant. First of all she was the one who can drive a truck in high heels. Then she is the only one who wore a full gown and it was this canary yellow marshmellow monstrosity that looked just like what Belle wore in Beauty and the Beast but not nearly as floaty. It was the only one without bedazzles of all stripes and the announcer lady said she is "proud she's walking in that." And then, when Marilu Henner (who has a photographic memory) asked her if women are depicted well in movies and asked for an example. She replied that women are depicted well and cited Pretty Woman as her example. You mean the one about a hooker? That Pretty Woman? No wonder Rhode Island won.
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Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore) is a diamond-drenched pampered pooch who lives the high life in Beverly Hills. Beloved by her owner Aunt Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis) and adored by the landscaper’s Chihuahua Papi (George Lopez) she is left with a babysitter niece Rachel (Piper Perabo) when Viv takes off on vacation. Rachel impulsively departs on a last-minute weekend romp to Mexico with Chloe who not only gets lost south of the border but ends up in some very bad company. Saved from certain death in a dog fight she hooks up with a street-savvy German Shepherd (Andy Garcia) harboring a dark secret from his past life as a police dog. Along the way her diamond ID collar is swiped by a conniving rat (Cheech Marin) and his accomplice a very fidgety Iguana (Paul Rodriguez) leading to major chaos as all of them are pursued by the vicious El Diablo (Edward James Olmos) a Doberman out for revenge and one very disoriented Chihuahua. Will Rachel and Papi be able to find her in time before clueless Aunt Viv’s return? That’s the burning question. Basically a talking dog movie with a heavy Spanish accent Beverly Hills Chihuahua doesn’t exactly shy from stereotyped Mexicans but since this is a canine Babe it manages to get away with just about anything simply because these pooches are just so darned cute. The voice cast which features such Latino stars as George Lopez Edward James Olmos Paul Rodriguez Cheech Marin and Andy Garcia is perfectly cast lending a lot of fun to the proceedings especially Lopez as the lovably loyal Papi and Marin as a jewel-thief rat. Barrymore is also ideal as the ultra-rich and spoiled Chloe who is the equivalent of a canine Paris Hilton. The human actors are basically wallpaper with Curtis given little dimension in her relatively brief screen time and Perabo spending most of the film searching for the pup she carelessly misplaced. Manolo Cardona does nicely as the family gardener who helps out in the search. But it’s the remarkable real dog stars that steal this show. You have to wonder how their trainers led by Birds And Animals Unlimited’s Mike Alexander pulled some of this stuff off. These animals are more three-dimensional than most real thesps we’ve seen lately and actually do seem to be mouthing their lines (including some very clever dialogue). The old show-business adage says to never work with kids or animals--they take center stage everytime. In this case director Raja Gosnell and the group of talented trainers behind the cameras have proven the saying absolutely right. Dominating the breezy 86-minute time the bulk of the movie is devoted to stars of the four-legged variety and Gosnell makes it look easy with inventive camera angles giving us the POV of all the various dog stars who seem to be taking on the distinct personalities of the “characters” they are playing particularly the soulful down-and-out ex-police dog Garcia voices. You really do wonder what this dog’s deep dark secret is and the relationship forged between him and Chloe is genuinely real. It’s a tribute to Gosnell’s talents and the entire behind-the-scenes team that Beverly Hills Chihuahua turns out to be the family delight it is.
Ignacio (Jack Black) has never been particularly adept at anything but he has great passion for the things that matter to him: cooking and wrestling. Growing up in a Mexican orphanage ‘Nacho’ always dreamt of becoming a “luchador”--the term for a Mexican wrestler--and he even had the paunch to boot but alas it was highly forbidden by the religious orphanage. Now grown up he works as a chef for the only home he has ever known. He’s subjected to constant criticism at the hands of monks for the slop he calls food but claims he isn’t paid enough for quality ingredients. So as he sees it his only solution for more money is to pursue the forbidden fruit of becoming a luchador. He picks up a rail-thin peasant (Hector Jimenez) along the way to form a tag-team duo. Together they’re so horrendous that fans line up just for a laugh. But that makes them underdogs and we all know the fate of underdog characters in movies.
Jack Black maybe the best comedic actor of his extraordinarily gifted generation is a sight to behold. In Nacho Libre his mere pose which invariably sees him showcasing his belly as if a trophy is enough to arouse laughter. But once he opens his mouth forget it! Nacho’s broken English-and-Spanish dialect is tailor-made for Black as is his character’s penchant to break into Tenacious D-style song to profess his love for a nun (Ana de la Reguera). The problems with Black are due to his improper utilization at times (see “direction”) not his performance which is about as flawlessly inane as verbal/physical comedy gets. He taps into mania with an ease that hasn’t been seen since John Belushi. As Nacho’s equally hopeless sidekick Esqueleto Jimenez garners his fair share of laughs thanks mostly to the wrestling scenes. But his high-pitched yelps forced ineptitude and blank expressions grow old quickly.
Director Jared Hess should’ve quit after his first feature Napoleon Dynamite. Only because expectations for his follow-up in this case Libre simply cannot be met. That said he doesn’t only make sophomore mistakes; there is promise and talent on full display here. For instance Hess again exhibits an ability to find and/or create the most outlandish characters from the star all the way down to the unknown Mexican extras. But even at just over 90 minutes long the film drags and seems like a hilarious skit stretched way too far. That’s because although conceptually hilarious the story (which Hess co-wrote with wife Jerusha and veteran Mike White) is as thin as Nacho is portly. And as Hess has learned the hard way with bigger budgets come bigger constraints such as not-so-subtle humor (fart jokes pratfalls) to appease the teen masses. Hess’ fatal flaw however despite what will again be an underrated offbeat effort was to not stray further from his trademark movie thus keeping the animal that is Black caged--albeit in a large cage.